A 131-page report from the investigator of impeachment charges against Gov. Robert Bentley says the governor used career law enforcement to try to cover up an inappropriate relationship with former adviser Rebekah Mason.
“Governor Bentley directed law enforcement to advance his personal interests and, in a process characterized by increasing obsession and paranoia, subjected career law enforcement officers to tasks intended to protect his reputation,” the report states.
The report says more than 20 witnesses were interviewed and 10,000 pages of documents reviewed, but says Bentley and Mason did not cooperate and tried to obstruct the investigation.
Ross Garber, who is representing the governor’s office in the impeachment proceedings, issued a statement after the report and after Montgomery County Circuit Judge Greg Griffin granted a temporary restraining order to stop hearings planned by the Judiciary Committee next week.
“We appreciate the Court’s consideration of this serious case and are gratified by the result,” Garber said. “The Rule of Law applies. Even to the Legislature. Even in Impeachments.
“We will review today’s document dump – which appears to be an amalgam of hearsay, rumor and innuendo. I continue to have confidence that there will ultimately be fairness and due process in this matter.”
Mason declined comment.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Jones said the committee filed an appeal of Griffin’s order, seeking expedited action from the Alabama Supreme Court.
Jones said the committee will meet Monday, as planned, to discuss procedures and what happened today.
The impeachment report came from Special Counsel Jack Sharman, hired by the Alabama House Judiciary Committee to investigate the impeachment allegations.
“Special Counsel (Sharman) and his staff brought no preconceptions to the investigation of Governor Bentley, an approach that was endorsed by the Chairman and by the Committee as a whole,” the report from Sharman states. “Despite the heated and sometimes ill-considered discussion in the media or the public about Governor Bentley and a variety of issues, the Committee’s investigators took a thorough, skeptical approach.”
“Unlike a criminal investigation that involves specific statutes or detailed regulations sitting atop a body of well-developed case law, impeachment does not require a specific violation of law, nor is there a neatly defined set of doctrines applicable to every impeachment investigation.”
Sharman also took the time to shoot back at some of the comments from Bentley’s attorneys during the investigation. “The Committee’s Special Counsel is not “some private lawyer in Birmingham,” as Governor Bentley and his counsel claimed throughout the investigation (any more than Governor Bentley’s counsel is ‘some private lawyer in Washington, D.C.’).”
Bentley has denied wrongdoing and said he intends to stay in office despite calls to resign from House Speaker Mac McCutcheon and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh.
“I have done nothing illegal,” Bentley said this morning, reading a prepared statement on the steps of the State Capitol. “If the people want to know if I misused state resources, the answer is simply no, I have not.”
The Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause on Wednesday that Bentley violated the campaign finance law and the ethics law and forwarded those allegations to the Montgomery County District attorney.
Sharman’s report makes note of that but says it does not draw further conclusions about the findings.
The report backs the allegation of former Alabama Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier that Bentley fired him for providing an affidavit to the attorney general’s office against his orders.
Bentley said he fired Collier for alleged misspending of state funds, but the report notes that an investigation cleared Collier.
The report alleges that on a number of occasions Bentley involved Collier and his security chief, Ray Lewis, in trying to cover up the relationship with Mason. It says those efforts grew after Bentley learned of the existence of recorded phone calls.
The report says Bentley had Lewis confront women in his office who he thought were gossiping about the relationship with Mason and twice directed Lewis to break off the relationship with Mason. It says Bentley sent Lewis to Tuscaloosa to convince Bentley’s son Paul to turn over the recordings.
Some of the accusations were included in a lawsuit against Bentley filed by Lewis.
The report also says Bentley ordered Collier to research criminal law and be prepared to arrest Heather Hannah, a former assistant for Dianne Bentley, who Bentley believed had made the recordings, and sent Collier to Greenville on election night in 2014 to ask Linda Adams, the governor’s director of scheduling, whether she knew about the recordings.
The report says that by all accounts the governor and his wife Dianne had a strong relationship when he began his first term. But it says Dianne Bentley began to have concerns about Mason by September 2013.
It says Dianne Bentley confronted the governor about the relationship shortly after the State of the State speech in 2014 and Mason was in charge of seating arrangements.
“The tipping point was Mason’s failure to seat one of the Bentley children near Ms. Bentley during the speech and Governor Bentley’s defense of Mason when it was brought to his attention,” the report says. “Shortly thereafter, Ms. Bentley directly confronted her husband about Mason. He denied an inappropriate relationship.”
According to the report, Bentley’s scheduler, Linda Adams, said that during 2014 the governor begin blocking off hours of time to spend with large segments of time with Mason in his office. It says Bentley also began restricting access to his calendar, including to Dianne Bentley and her staff.
The report says Bentley’s refusal to cooperate with the process could be another ground for impeachment.
Other details found in today’s report:
- Hannah, former assistant to former first lady Dianne Bentley, grew suspicious of the relationship between Bentley and Mason and helped Dianne Bentley capture the now infamous call between the two.
Hannah once “noticed that Governor Bentley was leaving the Mansion earlier in the mornings and returning later, and she recalls a particular day when Governor Bentley had makeup on his shirt when he came home. Around the same time, Ms. Bentley had begun to record in her journal the absence of affection from her husband. She noted there was no physical affection,
no suggestions of intimacy, and that he had not so much as said “I love you” in quite some time.”
The report states Hannah was subjected to intimidation and harassment.
“Within a few days of Hannah’s deposition, she believes on or about June 6, 2016, Hannah was outside of her new home watering plants when she heard what sounded like her bushes rustling. Unsure of the source of the noise, she walked to the front of her house where she noticed “scribbles” on the windows of her vehicle.
“She stated that at the time she could tell the scribbles were some sort of writing, but she had difficulty reading it. She took photographs of the writing on her windows, and it showed up much clearer in the pictures. Hannah provided the two pictures to Special Counsel, which are attached to this report and contained in Exhibit 9A at 217-218.
“The first photograph is of writing on what appears to be the driver side windows of her vehicle, and it appears to read, “Bitch Die.” The second photograph is of writing on the windshield, and it appears to read, “You will f…ing die.”
“On June 15, 2016, Hannah was at her home preparing for bed. She turned off the light in her kitchen and was walking to the back of her house when she heard the sound of breaking glass.
“She walked back to her kitchen where she believed the sound originated and saw a rock lying on the floor. She also observed a broken panel in a large window on the front of her house.
“Hannah immediately called the police, who came to her home and took a police report at twenty minutes after midnight. At that time, Hannah also advised the officers of the vandalism of her vehicle. The police report reflects that Hannah told the officers at the time that she believed both incidents were related to her recent deposition.”
“Hannah testified during her deposition by Special Counsel that she believed both incidents were related to her testimony before the Alabama Ethics Commission.”
- The governor accidentally ended a text message to his now former wife by saying, “I love you Rebekah.”
- Another text exchange showed Bentley’s concern the first lady would not attend his inauguration.
“Dianne I wish you would still come Monday. He then asks if their children are going to attend.
“Have u made your choice? Do you still have a relationship going? Those facts can be decided Sun afternoon,” she replied.
- While in Washington D.C., Bentley once answered the door of his hotel room wearing his boxers, mistakenly thinking Mason was on the other side.
“The majority of the entourage, including both Mason and Ms. Bentley, attended a dinner at the Old Ebbitt Grill, a well-known local restaurant. Throughout the dinner, Ms. Bentley was able to read text messages being exchanged between Governor Bentley and Mason, who was seated directly across from the Bentleys. Those text exchanges included Governor Bentley stating, “I can’t take my eyes off of you.” Later that evening at a D.C. bar, Mason bragged that Governor Bentley had called and told her that he had opened his hotel room door to hotel staff while clad in boxers, believing Mason was on the other side.”
- “Although many witnesses have been candid and forthcoming, Governor Bentley and his associates, including Rebekah Mason, refused to cooperate in any meaningful sense and, indeed, obstructed this investigation,” a report summary states.
That lack of cooperation, the report states, may be grounds for impeachment.
- The report at one point references President Richard Nixon.
“Unlike Governor Bentley, President Nixon invoked the doctrine of “executive privilege” in refusing to comply with the subpoena. Rather, Governor Bentley has declined to comply with the subpoena on the grounds that the Committee lacks authority to issue them, or that the subpoena is procedurally or substantively unfair to him, or both.
“The “Nixon case made it clear that the claim of executive privilege by a president in an impeachment investigation should be viewed with extreme skepticism. Where the Committee has authority to issue subpoenas, and where the House investigation follows appropriate safeguards established both by House rule and common sense, a Governor’s refusal to comply without even a fig leaf of a privilege claim should be met with skepticism.”
- The report seems to indicate Rebekah Mason ran ACE.GOV:
“Shortly after ACEGov was formed, Governor Bentley revealed that Mason
was going to be involved in it. One Bentley staff member reported that Mason said,” the report states.
“I will be running ACEGov.” Available information supports her statement. In July
and August 2015, ACEGov conducted polls that Mason provided to Governor
Bentley’s staff for review and dissemination to the Legislature. Mason recruited
members of Governor Bentley’s staff to attend events supported with ACEGov
funds. Although ACEGov’s website, www.acegov.com, was pulled down in early
2016, its webpage content remained accessible via Squarespace, a website
development and management platform, through a URL associated with Mason.”
AL.com reporters Kent Faulk, Mike Oliver, Connor Sheets Leada Gore and Paul Gattis contributed to this report.